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When Luzardo Returns to Athletics, Will it be as a Starter or a Reliever?

The Oakland Athletics don't know when lefty starter Jesus Luzardo will twice test negative for coronavirus and return to workouts. When he does, because there are no minor leagues, he'll have to get game ready during actual MLB games. How that will work out is up in the air.

The good news on Oakland A’s starter Jesus Luzardo is that, even in quarantine, he seems to be excited about the season to come.

A’s pitching coach Scott Emerson, talking on a video chat with A’s media members, said that Luzardo “seems great when I talk to him.”

“When we’re talking casually, you know he’s just excited and ready to go,” Emerson said. “He wants to get on the field and show everybody who Jesus Luzardo is.”

The bad news on Luzardo is that he’s still quarantined, and until he can test negative for the coronavirus twice in tests administered at least 24 hours apart, he won’t be able to join the A’s. When he does, however, Emerson doesn’t believe it will take the 22???-year-old, who was seen as one of the top Rookie of the Year candidates for 2020 before being sidelined, long to catch up.

“As young as Jesus is and as good shape as he’s in, (missing) two weeks isn’t going to set him back too much,” Emerson said. “Because he is athletic and he is young, and he’s at his place, stretching and keeping himself limber and ready to go, I don’t expect him to miss too much time.”

Luzardo was scheduled to be one of two left-handed rookie starters in the Oakland rotation, joining A.J. Puk. But the longer he’s kept off the field, the more the A’s will have to twist and turn to find ways to get him back into the groove.

Because there are no minor leagues operating this year, it’s not like Luzardo can go to Triple-A, make two or three starts and then rejoin the club. He can work at the A’s alternate site in San Jose in some simulated games, perhaps, but that’s not the same.

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Emerson said that one option would be to bring Luzardo back as a starter, limiting him to go just two innings. Or they could use him to get those two innings in leveraged relief situations. Either way, the idea is to get him stretched out.

“Generally, you built up a starter at two innings and about 35 pitches and bout build them up 15 to 20 pitches (at a time),” Emerson said. “We could pitch him in games that are meaningful, and stretch him out that way, and then as the season goes on, plug him in as a starter.”

Emerson said he, manager Bob Melvin and the front office haven’t had that conversation yet.

“We’re just waiting to get him back first,” Emerson said.

For the moment, the A’s seem likely to start the season with a five-man rotation composed of Mike Fiers, Sean Manaea, Frankie Montas, Puk and Chris Bassitt, who was in the rotation most of last year when the A’s starting corps was decimated by injuries and suspensions.

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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